I want to start with some personal context. Like the author of this book, I'm also an Australian, and have spent a lot of time in the US, as a student and on business. Some argue that the only people who can truly understand and appreciate the values and nuances of a culture are those who are raised and live in that culture. That would make an outsider's take on America limited or trivial.
An opposing idea is that those who grow up in a culture are blind to that culture, which has become part of their worldview and about which they are largely unconscious. This is like taking for granted the air we breathe, or the fish presumably being unaware of the water that surrounds it. If this analogy holds water, Americans are more or less incapable of seeing American society with any degree of perspective or objectivity (whatever that word means in our postmodern world).
Yet, as de Tocqueville demonstrated with his insightful observations on America in the 1830s, outsiders can sometimes bring fresh, critical and creative perspectives to bear on (to them) foreign cultures. Australian sociologist and social critic, Don Watson, brings this gift to Americans and others with this book.
For example, Watson appreciates and illuminates the many paradoxes and complexities of American society. The failure of America, the richest nation on earth, to provided universal basic health care or a livable minimum wage for its citizens -- whereas much less wealthy liberal democracies manage to do so, or nearly so -- exemplifies this point. Watson, like de Tocqueville, does not condemn or judge. In fact, he is simultaneously in awe, as many outsiders are, of American freedoms and achievements, and bewildered by American provincialism and paranoia.
If you are an American, you probably wont agree with all of Watson's observations, but I would be surprised if your attitudes and feelings towards your own country are not enriched. Whether you are an American or an "alien" -- as your bureaucratic language revealing labels non-Americans -- this book will likely make you laugh and think.